On one level, we admire San Diego City Councilmember Carl DeMaio tremendously. Here’s a man who, when he was but a boy, seemed to insist on avoiding becoming a statistic. He emerged from a home broken by his reportedly abusive father, coped with the untimely death of his beloved mother, worked hard and grew to be incredibly successful. He built a business, became rich and now has a legitimate shot at being elected mayor of the nation’s eighth most populous city.
It’s how he’s used his success and who he’s become that we find so distasteful.
CityBeat’s aversion to Carl DeMaio is well known. But it wasn’t always this way. There was a time when we got along just fine. Our political columnist, John R. Lamb, was one of the first—if not the first—journalists to profile DeMaio soon after he began poking and prodding city officials in early 2004.
Amid a financial crisis created by the City Manager’s office, the San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System and union leadership, DeMaio provided a refreshing new voice, and we appreciated his desire for a more efficiently run city. We knew of DeMaio’s associations with Newt Gingrich and the Reason Foundation, but we were willing to give him a chance on his own merits. It didn’t hurt that the Chamber of Commerce and then-Mayor Dick Murphy’s office were among those that found DeMaio undesirable—how bad could he be?
Over the years, though, we gradually soured on him. One by one, we hopped off the DeMaio bandwagon as we realized where it was going. His rhetoric grew more extreme, and his self-promotion grew more irritating. But, more importantly, his political agenda became ever more transparent. It was less about saving taxpayers money and making government more responsive than it was about outsourcing public jobs to private companies and destroying retirement security for public servants.
Once DeMaio realized that CityBeat wasn’t going to be a participant in his crusade, he stopped talking to us. When he was running for City Council, we invited all the candidates running in Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7 to have drinks with us and talk about their candidacies. Though only three of the candidates were so brave to partake in adult beverages in our presence (Todd Gloria, Stephen Whitburn and Marshall Merrifield), Republicans and Democrats alike sat down with us and chatted. It was a really fun project. DeMaio was the only one who declined our offer.
After he was elected, our coverage of him became increasingly critical, and, instead of engaging us for the benefit of our readers and his constituents, he eventually shut us out, refusing to answer our questions and taking us off his distribution list for press announcements.
Now, this is not to say that we dislike him because he won’t talk to us; we tell you this because blacklisting a critical press outlet is indicative of something. An unstable megalomaniac who needs to be in control of every situation perhaps?
DeMaio the politician lives in a world of pure black and pure white; there are no shades of gray, no nuanced issues. Of course, that’s not reality, so he has to twist, omit and even lie about the facts in order for them to suit his needs. The news website Voice of San Diego has checked 12 of DeMaio’s claims of fact since the mayoral race began, and, of those, four statements were deemed “false,” and two were called “huckster propaganda”—a term that seemed designed to describe DeMaio and his campaign.
The point is that we gave DeMaio a chance, and he eventually proved himself unworthy of it.
CityBeat’s been making election endorsements ever since it started in 2002. Only twice have we despised a politician so much that we’ve made a special issue of opposing his bid for office. We did it in 2010 with county Supervisor Bill Horn. And now we do it with DeMaio. Our case against his candidacy for mayor of San Diego continues here.
Considering how well he rose above a difficult childhood and persevered, it’s a shame that we can’t get behind him. He’s someone we would have otherwise liked to root for.
What do you think? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.